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Pope Sends Special Emissary from Rome to Greet Hexter and Willen

January 10, 1967
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A special emissary of Pope Paul VI sent directly from Rome with a message from the Pontiff was a highlight of a dinner at the Waldorf Astoria honoring Dr. Maurice Hexter and Joseph Willen on their retirement as executive vice-presidents of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York. Principal speakers at the dinner, attended by more than 1,000 leading New Yorkers, included Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller and Mayor John V. Lindsay.

The Pope’s Emissary, Father Felix A. Morlion, O.P., president of the Pro Deo Free International University for Social Studies of Rome, read the message which was described as “a recognition in the spirit of the renewed brotherhood expressed in Vatican Council II.” The Pope’s message, comments by Father Morlion, and talks by Governor Rockefeller, Mayor Lindsay and others emphasized that Federation, while sectarian sponsored, today comprises 130 member hospitals, social service and recreational agencies providing the broadest range of health and welfare services to over 1,250,000 New Yorkers annually without regard to race, economic status or religion.

Joseph M. Proskauer, former Justice of the Supreme Court, Appelate Division, of the State of New York and sixth president of Federation, delivered the major tribute to Mr. Willen and Dr. Hexter. He stressed that “few community leaders have done so much to help provide so many vitally needed services to so many millions of New Yorkers over the past half century.” He presented books of tributes to the guests of honor. Mr. Willen has been associated with Federation since 1919; Dr. Hexter since 1937. Both became executive vice-presidents in 1941. The successor is Dr. David G. Salten. Mr. Willen and Dr. Hexter are to become executive consultants to Federation.

Another highlight of the event was a film presentation which included tributes to Dr. Hexter and Mr. Willen. Participants in the film, who included prominent Jewish and non-Jewish leaders, stressed the leadership of the two Federation executive vice-presidents in organizing volunteer community leaders who succeeded in raising an estimated $1.5 billion for Federation agencies over the past 50 years. Samuel J.Silberman, current Federation president, served as toastmaster of the evening.

In his message, Pope Paul lauded the “precious work” accomplished by Dr. Hexter and Mr. Willen. In presenting this message, Rev. Father Morlion said: “Why should the head of the Catholic church himself decide to send a message to two Jewish leaders. The reason is that after the Ecumenical Council, particular occasions have been sought to affirm the great principles that are common to Jewish and Christian traditions.

“One of those principles and perhaps the most important is the Mitzvah, ” the Pope’s Special Emissary continued. “In this era which we can call the spiritual revolution of understanding and esteem, we do not want to honor a leader just because of the tenets he professes or the words he speaks. We now see that the best criterion to judge the value of a human life is to consider the deeds accomplished by man for his fellow man. The Mitzvah tradition, so profound and powerful in the Jewish people, never ceases to stress that the Torah cannot fulfill the requirements of religion without the Mitzvah which embodies in deeds God’s commandments.”

Father Morlion stressed that Willen and Hexter are praised “because they have devoted their lives to the practical and active love of man inspired and strengthened by faith and not for one day, or one year, but during almost 50 years of continuous dedication.”

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